Theresa May commits to net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050

Theresa May commits to net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050

Net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050

The Prime Minister has announced that the UK will set a Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target into law, eradicating the country’s net contribution to climate change by 2050. The legislation will amend the 2008 Climate Change Act which set a target for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels).

The Government’s plans are a response to the Committee on Climate Change’s recent statement calling for a Net Zero 2050 target.

The 2050 target, in an amendment being put down as a statutory instrument, meaning it does not require a vote of MPs, will be one of the most ambitious such goals set by a major polluting nation.

The commitment, to be made in an amendment to the Climate Change Act laid in parliament on Wednesday, would make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, Downing Street said. The legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions, with other major economies expected to follow suit. It says that the UK will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.

Environmental groups welcomed the goal but expressed disappointment that the plan would allow the UK to achieve it in part through international carbon credits, something Greenpeace said would “shift the burden to developing nations”.

The Climate Change Act has been the foundation of moves to decarbonise the UK economy and this shows that the Government is reaffirming its commitment and further strengthening reduction targets.

“But it’s vital that targets are backed by robust, practical and fair policies that can deliver the objectives. Climate change cannot be an optional extra, it must be front and centre when we’re developing policies in transport, as well as other key areas of the economy.

“Transport is one of the most challenging areas for decarbonisation (as the SMMT’s latest summary, published today shows) and has, so far, proved one of the most intractable. There are real signs of progress – in road transport at least – but much more must be done by Government and all other key stakeholders to ramp up progress and help ensure that the UK is, at least, amongst countries leading the world into a new green, clean industrial revolution.

“Delivering this ambitious new target for a new generation of mobility systems presents big challenges to every player in the transport arena; automotive, energy, government, fleets and, of course, consumers…but together we can – and must – develop, communicate and deliver the plan to get us to Net Zero”.
France proposed net zero emissions legislation this year, while some smaller countries have gone for dates before 2050, such as Finland (2035) and Norway (2030), though the latter allows the buying of carbon offsets.

While the 2050 date was recommended by the UK’s official Committee on Climate Change (CCC), May has rejected its advice on international carbon credits, whereby a country can pay for cuts elsewhere in lieu of domestic emissions. John Gummer, the CCC chair, said last month it was “essential” that such credits were not used.

Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the target was “a big moment for everyone in the climate movement” and a legacy May could be proud of. However, he said the “loopholes” of allowing international carbon credits would need to be unpicked and the target date moved forward.
“As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, it is right that the UK is the world’s first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through international carbon credits undermines that commitment,” he said. “This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according to the government’s climate advisers, cost-efficient.”

May, who will mark the target on Wednesday by meeting science and engineering students, said it was “the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children”.

She said: “This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth. Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

The plan was endorsed by the CBI’s head, Carolyn Fairbairn, who said such efforts “can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity”.
She added: “Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.”

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‘Net Zero’ UK commitment, acceleration of EV uptake

‘Net Zero’ UK commitment, acceleration of EV uptake

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report calls for ‘Net Zero’ UK commitment, acceleration of EV uptake

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published a landmark report which calls for the UK to adopt a world-leading target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The report calls for the target for electric cars introduction to be brought forward and for the accelerated introduction of low carbon technologies for other harder-to-electrify vehicle types, such as long-range trucks.

The CCC says that a net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It says that the target is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990.

The Committee has recommended an earlier target for Scotland (net-zero by 2045), pointing to Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole. The Scottish Government was quick to accept the challenge. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish Government will legislate on the 2045 target. For Wales, the Committee recommends a 95% reduction target by 2050.

The Committee warns, however, that Net Zero will only be possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay. It says that current policy is insufficient to meet even the existing targets.

Road transport is highlighted as one of the more challenging areas in terms of decarbonisation. In its Technical Report the CCC proposes a ‘further ambition’ scenario in which the ending of sales of non-zero emission cars, vans and motorcycles is brought forward to 2035 at the latest (from the Government’s proposed deadline of 2040). It says that regulatory approval of non-zero emission vehicles limited to 2050 at the latest.

It says that cars and vans can switch, cost-effectively, to electric vehicles and that buses can also change to electricity and hydrogen fuel. The report acknowledges the challenges in decarbonising longer range trucks saying that HGVs should transition to zero emission options including hydrogen and electrification throughout the 2030s but that strong efforts are needed now to determine the best solutions.

The CCC says that electric vehicles are likely to be cost saving compared to petrol and diesel vehicles before 2030. On this basis, the cumulative costs of passenger transport in the UK from 2018 to 2050 may be lower if the end to sales of cars and vans with petrol and diesel engines is brought forward to 2030, compared to 2040. The chart above shows the cumulative costs (vehicles, fuels  – excluding taxation – and infrastructure) of cars and vans given a decision to end sales in 2030 and one to end them in 2040.

The report says: “it would be desirable to aim for 100% of new car and van sales to be electric by the earlier date, but there is uncertainty about the ability of car manufacturers to supply this volume of electric vehicles”.

The report adds that demand for transport can be reduced by encouraging walking, cycling and the use of public transport instead of car travel and by supporting freight operators to make improvements in logistics.

Including ‘further ambition’ measures, the Committee says that all these measures combined can reduce road transport emissions by 98% by 2050, compared to a 1990 baseline.

The Committee says that the UK could receive an industrial boost as it leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.

Speaking at the report launch at One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said that Britain led the world into an industrial revolution powered by fossil fuels and that it can also lead the world out of fossil fuel dependence. “This is not going to be easy, but it’s a challenge we cannot avoid…and we have to start now.”

The Committee’s report, requested by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in light of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC’s Special Report in 2018, finds that:

  • The foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development. These include: a supply of low-carbon electricity (which will need to quadruple by 2050), efficient buildings and low-carbon heating (required throughout the UK’s building stock), electric vehicles (which should be the only option from 2035 or earlier), developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen (which are a necessity not an option), stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill, phasing-out potent fluorinated gases, increasing tree planting, and measures to reduce emissions on farms. However, these policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets.
  • Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible, given that most sectors of the economy will need to cut their emissions to zero by 2050. The Committee’s conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost is entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy. Government must set the direction and provide the urgency. The public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed. Serious plans are needed to clean up the UK’s heating systems, to deliver the infrastructure for carbon capture and storage technology and to drive transformational change in how we use our land.
  • The overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable but they must be fairly distributed. Rapid cost reductions in essential technologies such as offshore wind and batteries for electric vehicles mean that a net-zero greenhouse gas target can be met at an annual cost of up to 1-2% of GDP to 2050. However, the costs of the transition must be fair, and must be perceived as such by workers and energy bill payers. The Committee recommends that the Treasury reviews how the remaining costs of achieving net- zero can be managed in a fair way for consumers and businesses.

There are multiple benefits of the transition to a zero-carbon economy, the Committee’s report shows. These include benefits to people’s health from better air quality, less noise thanks to quieter vehicles, more active travel thanks to increased rates of cycling and walking, healthier diets, and increased recreational benefits from changes to land use.

In addition, the UK could receive an industrial boost as it leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted. The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”

Notes to editors

  1. A net-zero target would require a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is referred to as ‘net’ as the expectation is that it would be met with some remaining sources of emissions which would need to be offset by removals of COfrom the atmosphere – by growing trees, for example.

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Exploring what a net-zero target means for households

Exploring what a net-zero target means for households

Living Carbon Free – Exploring what a net-zero target means for households

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is assessing the impact of a target to reach net zero emissions. In the report attached Energy Systems Catapult considers the implications for households of increased ambition across six activities: heat, transport, electricity use, aviation, diet and waste.

For each activity, they explore possible actions for decarbonisation and, using pathways set out by the CCC, they show the emissions reduction that can be achieved under different ambition levels. They also share some illustrations of what a net zero future might look like for different groups.

Heat decarbonisation will require improvements to the fabric of our homes and adoption of low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, district heating and hydrogen boilers. Smart control systems can ensure these solutions provide the experience households want, while local area planning will be essential to ensure a joined-up approach and avoid unnecessary cost.

Transport emissions can be reduced firstly by reducing overall distances travelled (e.g. through flexible working). Shifting to more sustainable modes of transport like buses and trains, or walking and cycling, would reduce energy use by private cars (and ease congestion and improve air quality). Making more efficient use of cars would help too, e.g. through carpooling. Finally, switching to electric (and potentially hydrogen) vehicles will be essential for net zero.

Electricity use for lighting and appliances (and heat and transport) will have to be fully decarbonised. That will require national solutions like large-scale renewables, nuclear, or gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS). But there will also be significant opportunities for households to participate and provide flexibility to the grid, e.g. through micro-generation and energy storage technologies, or smart appliances that offer demand side response as part of a future smart grid.

Aviation emissions have been steadily increasing over recent decades. Airlines can help curb emissions through more efficient aircraft and flight management, and accelerating deployment of advanced technologies like hybrid electric planes. Households can contribute by thinking more carefully about our growing demand for air travel (especially the most frequent flyers).

Diet change can help reduce emissions from agriculture, in addition to ‘upstream’ changes like improved farming practices. Reducing our meat and dairy consumption can have a particularly large impact due to the high global warming effect of the methane emissions involved.

Waste reduction, including food waste, can also help to avoid emissions arising from landfill. T

To meet an 80% target, most scenarios require high ambition on electricity and waste, but many households might still be reliant on (hybrid) petrol cars and gas boilers, eat as much meat and dairy as today, and fly more every year.

Achieving net zero will require households to engage more profoundly in the transition around heat, transport, aviation and diet. This is a challenge but also an opportunity: many of the actions would have co-benefits such as reduced congestion, improved air quality, expansion of green spaces and improved physical and mental health.

As the CCC’s analysis shows, even net zero scenarios include some remaining household emissions, e.g. in diet and aviation. Negative emissions (removing carbon from the atmosphere) would therefore be required. But methods for achieving this have their limits, so the more we can curb emissions directly, the less we will have to rely on these. Care has to be taken when setting policy to drive a transition to net zero, to ensure the least well off are not disproportionately affected, particularly in the case of low carbon heating. Living Carbon Free: Exploring what a net-zero target means for households .

The UK Climate Change Act 2008 set a legally binding target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to a 1990 baseline. This was seen as a proportionate UK response to a global effort to prevent temperatures rising beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Since that time, improved scientific understanding of the risks of climate change means attention has shifted to a more ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5°C. To succeed, we need to eliminate net1 GHG emissions globally by the second half of the century. The UK Government has asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to advise on an appropriate target date for the UK to achieve net zero emissions, and whether this requires accelerated reductions between now and 2050.


The vast majority of households have a need for mobility to enable us to commute to work, go shopping or visit friends and family. For most of us, this involves a mixture of different modes of transport including walking, cycling, driving or public transport.

The story so far

Between 1990 and 2017, emissions from UK surface transport have increased in absolute terms. Allowing for growth in the number of households, the average per household emissions fell from 2,952 to 2,376 kg CO2e. Clearly different modes of travel have very different implications for emissions, with private cars responsible for the majority.

In 1990, in the UK we travelled a total of 588 billion kilometres by car. By 2017 that had risen to 670 billion kilometres. Improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency have prevented emissions from growing at the same rate, but internal combustion engines continue to dominate the vehicle fleet.

Actions for decarbonisation

Achieving a net zero target will require significant changes to how we move around. This will require both comprehensive decarbonisation of cars and vans and rethinking how we get around in the first place. Our mobility needs are diverse, and depend on proximity to the workplace, schools and amenities and many other factors.

The solutions available to us will also vary depending on whether we live in an urban city centre, the outskirts of a small town or in an isolated rural area. For example, people living in cities and towns make fewer and shorter car journeys.

Reducing overall distance travelled would mean less pressure for new transport infrastructure, thus reducing indirect emissions from extraction and processing of raw materials.

Reducing travel distance could be achieved through more flexible working patterns allowing people to work from home (or closer to home in ‘shared working’ spaces), supported by greater use of virtual rather than physical meetings. Those living in urban areas generally travel the shortest distances so, in principle, increased urbanisation of the UK population could support this transition (relative to an alternative future with more suburban or rural living).

Shifting to more sustainable modes of transport could be a cost-effective alternative to private car ownership, depending on location. In its simplest form, modal shift could mean more walking and cycling. People could also gain health benefits from a more active lifestyle.

For longer journeys or in adverse weather conditions, many of us would require some form of public transport. This can involve increased physical activity too, from walking or cycling to the local bus stop or train station.

Travel time has been found to be the biggest factor when it comes to deciding to use public transport. A more efficient and extensive public transport system would therefore ease the switch away from private car use. Mode switching will probably be easier for people living in cities and towns where investment in public transport is easier to justify.

Given that there are still a significant number of journeys done by car in urban areas, there is a large opportunity for mode switching to have a significant impact on transport emissions. This would provide the further benefits of reduced congestion and improved air quality

Exploring what a net-zero target means for households Those living in more rural areas have fewer public transport options than those in urban areas but could still take advantage of park and ride schemes for journeys into city centres, for example.

Using vehicles more efficiently would also help reduce emissions. This is most significant while we continue to drive fossil fuel vehicles, but even in the case of electric vehicles, more efficient use would mean less overall electricity generation required to charge them.

Increasing the average occupancy rate of cars, e.g. through carpooling to work, would reduce the number of individual vehicle journeys (and reduce congestion along the way). Car sharing schemes could offer flexibility for those who are able to travel primarily by public transport but may have the occasional need for a private vehicle.

Switching to new vehicle technologies will be essential. Electric vehicles on the market today offer an average range of around 240 kilometres11, which is more than sufficient for most car journeys. For example, in urban areas the average distance per trip is only 13 kilometres. Even for those living in more isolated rural dwellings the average trip is only 18 kilometres.

Of course, range requirements are not determined by average distances but by occasional longer journeys. This explains the high average range of electric vehicles currently on the market, which might be sufficient to support a typical weekend getaway. The average range of new electric vehicles will continue to increase as battery costs come down, ensuring more households can find a solution that suits all of their needs.

For very long trips, like the annual family holiday, rapid charging units at service stations can already provide an 80% charge in under 30 minutes. Some households will opt for vehicles with a much larger than average range, making a cross-country trip with one or two recharging stops a viable option.

As new business models emerge to facilitate an electric vehicle transition, other households might rely on a short-range vehicle for day-to-day use, while taking advantage of car hire schemes to take a long-range model for occasional longer journeys. Aside from fast charging stations, all EV owners will require an everyday charging facility. Those with off-street parking will be able to install a charging point of their own. For others who use onstreet parking, public charging points will have to be rolled out extensively across the UK if an allelectric vehicle fleet is to be realised.

In many cases, workplace charging will offer an alternative or complementary opportunity to recharge. There are certain hours when we need our vehicles out on the road, but usually they remain parked for more than enough hours to ensure a full charge every day, meaning we have some flexibility around when we choose to recharge them. Households can support load balancing here by opting for smart charging. This can ensure their vehicles avoid recharging at times of high demand, minimising the need for additional peak generation which can be costly (and carbon intensive when provided by natural gas turbines). (150 miles), value obtained from and excludes Tesla Living Carbon Free:

The CCC’s Core scenario assumes the majority of the road transport fleet is electrified by 2050. This would lead to a reduction in emissions from transport for the average household from 2,376 to 371 kg CO2e between 2017-2050.

In CCC’s latest analysis, Further Ambition and Net-zero scenarios assume all cars will have to be fully electric (or hydrogen) by 2050, meaning household emissions from transport are effectively eliminated. To achieve this, all new car sales from 2035 will have to comply with this, allowing a 15- year period for any remaining fossil fuel vehicles to retire.

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Preventing damage to the environment with sustainable plastics from Centriforce

Preventing damage to the environment with sustainable plastics from Centriforce

Help in preventing damage to the environment with sustainable plastics from Centriforce

Powersystems were delighted to welcome the team from Centriforce, for a refresh on the product portfolio, putting names to faces and learning about the newly launched Stokbord® drum – a faster and safer way of installing heavy duty utility protection!

About Centriforce – They are the UK’s largest independent recycler of plastic waste into end-use products – Their core business is the manufacture of high performance recycled products from plastic waste such as plastic bottles, carrier bags and transportation packaging – waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill sites. They are the manufacturer behind some of the leading brands in the recycled plastics market. Their sheet product, Stokbord®, is the most popular recycled plastic board available; its versatility, durability and sustainability means that Stokbord® has multiple uses across a diverse range of markets, including agricultural, civil engineering, equestrian and land management . They are the market leader in the production of underground utility protection materials, their Stokbord® cable protection covers and Centritile® tape have replaced concrete as the industry standard in the UK utilities market.

Utility Damage Protection

Centriforce are a world-leader in the provision of damage prevention products for utilities, serving a global customer-base. They are proud to have pioneered the development of heavy-duty plastic covers as an effective alternative to concrete tiles to protect underground utilities, making them the world leader in this area. In their production facility they are committed to developing and testing products to go above and beyond customer expectations and meet stringent quality and environmental standards.

The product range includes utility protection mesh, detectable tapes for marking buried underground utility pipes and cables, underground warning tapes and cable protection coverscable protection Tapetile®, access chambers, marker posts and signs.

Utility protection mesh

Stokbord® – the multi-purpose board for civil engineers and contractors

Centriforce is the home of Stokbord®, and is exclusively manufactured at their facility in Liverpool, UK. Manufactured from 100% recycled plastic, Stokbord® is an extremely versatile material that can replace traditional materials such as timber, plywood, concrete, and even steel. Stokbord® is made from low density polyethylene (LDPE), which comes as standard in black or grey, with a specially embossed slip-resistant finish.

Stokbord® Protecta Sheet – the cost-effective alternative to plywood for spoil boards

Stokbord® Protecta Sheet is an innovative, cost-effective solution for prevention of damage to surfaces during construction and excavation. Providing protection for pavements and roads from surface scarring and damage caused by grab-wagons, excavators and materials.

Using Protecta Sheet ensures that you avoid unwanted fines for damaged road surfaces and pavements. It also offers a lower whole-life cost than using plywood/ timber, since Stokbord® can be used again and again. The boards are easy to move around side if required and have no sharp edges or splinters which can result in injury. They are able to manufacture boards to the specific needs of customers (including size and branding).

cost-effective alternative to plywood for spoil boards

Stokbord® Sheet – the more effective temporary flooring than plywood

Stokbord® is also becoming the contractor’s No 1 solution to protect finished surfaces from construction site wear and tear, whilst also contributing to a safer working environment with its slip resistant top coat. Stokbord® provides heavy-duty, temporary floor protection, having been specifically engineered for use by engineers and building contractors

Stokbord® is a tough, durable and impact resistant protection board, available in a range of different options to suit specific project requirements. Designed as a heavy duty protective solution, Stokbord® is excellent at absorbing shock and noise while resisting impact from construction footfall and machinery.

Durable and impact resistant protection board

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